In the last five years, over 300 people who died in New Zealand crashes were not wearing their seat belt.

Most of those deaths were in 2016.

Today the Herald, partnered by the New Zealand Police, are launching Belt Up - a four day series about seatbelt safety.

Last year almost one third of the people killed in crashes on New Zealand roads were not properly restrained.


The total road toll was 328 but 93 of those victims - had they been wearing a seatbelt, or strapped into a carseat - could still be alive today.

The aim of Belt Up is to educate and raise awareness, it is not about blaming victims.

We acknowledge that some of families simply do not agree with the police conclusion, made by expert crash scene analysts, that their loved one was not properly restrained when they died.

But police are firm on their message - these people could have survived if they had been buckled in.

The oldest victim in 2016 was 95 and the youngest was just eight months old.

Of those killed 63 were drivers, 33 were passengers and the majority were males - just 28 per cent were females.

However you break down the numbers, one thing is clear - every death was preventable.

"We're seeing an alarming trend, and increasing trend for no good reason whatsoever of people choosing not to put their seatbelt on, having a crash and dying," said Superintendent Steve Greally, the police national road policing manager.

"When you think about it, there is absolutely no good reason why you would want to play Russian Roulette with your life."

Greally said in 2012, 2013 and 2014 the number of people who died in crashes where they didn't have their belts on was, on average, 57.

"And then in 2015 that went up to 93 and the best part of 100 last year," he explained.

"The thing is when people do make a mistake - and it doesn't have to be you that makes it, it could be someone else on the road - and you crash, if you've got your belt on you've got such a greater chance of surviving."

This week we look into four key elements of restraints in New Zealand.

We'll tell you who the victims of 2016 were, why some Kiwis are not using restraints and whether there is a solution to this deadly habit.

We have spoken to crash survivors, the families of victims, frontline police and medical staff and road safety advocates about this issue and they all agree, the trend in New Zealand around restraints is concerning.

We, and they, want to encourage every person who gets in a vehicle to belt up, and make sure your whanau and friends do too.

In 2012 57 people killed in crashes as a result of being unrestrained, so in just four years that number has almost doubled.

It's not good enough.

It only takes a second to belt up, and it could save your life.

Belt Up New Zealand.